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Monday 15 October 2012

Barclays U18 Premier League: Saints back on top

Bolton, Southampton and Chelsea make the running in the Barclays U18 Premier League season

Southampton's Ryan Seager has scored eight goals so far this season

Chelsea, Southampton and Bolton Wanderers have maintained their early season momentum to lead their respective National Groups after seven matchweeks of the newly formed Barclays U18 Premier League.

All three sides were unbeaten after the opening two fixtures and have sustained their form in the U18 Premier League’s inaugural season.

The format, which has substituted last season’s Premier Academy League, consists of the 22 clubs who have Category One youth academy status. Two groups of seven and one group of eight will compete for qualification places for the Elite Group stage until December, before the competition is eventually whittled down to a knockout format for the U18 Premier League title.

Chelsea are the only side to have maintained a 100% record, recording six consecutive victories in National Group 3. The Blues earned wins over Liverpool, Crystal Palace and Middlesbrough in September before they beat Premier Academy League champions Fulham to move six points clear of their opponents.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek put the hosts in front in the first half after a fine cross-field ball from full-back Jon Muleba before Fulham’s Muamer Tankovic equalised midway through the second period. Chelsea took the points late on when Ambrose Gnahore’s dangerous centre was turned into his own net by Fulham defender Daniel O’Reilly.

In National Group 2, Southampton regained their position as leaders with a 2-1 victory over second-placed Manchester United. Sixteen-year-old striker Ryan Seager has been the catalyst for Saints’ early-season form, and he scored his seventh and eighth goals of the campaign against United to earn his side the three points. Saints, who regained their momentum after dropping four points in September, are one point ahead of the rest in Group 3 with a game in hand.

Stoke City, who beat Southampton 2-1 to end their unbeaten start in September, are level on points with Manchester United in third despite relinquishing a 2-0 lead to lose 3-2 against Sunderland on Saturday.

Bolton Wanderers have continued their unbeaten start to move five points ahead of second-placed Reading in National Group 1. Bolton scored nine goals in three matches during September as they beat Blackburn Rovers, Reading and Everton. They won their fifth consecutive U18 Premier League match thanks to a late goal from Bulgarian Georg Iliev against West Bromwich Albion last weekend.

Striker Tom Youngs has been in impressive form for the Group 1 leaders, netting eight times this season. Arsenal lie in third position, after Reading moved ahead of them with a 3-0 victory against the Gunners.

Click the links for Under-18 League fixtures, results and tables.

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Key Points

  • The Barclays U18 Premier League is in its first season
  • Bolton, Southampton and Chelsea are currently leading the three groups
  • Eight goals from Southampton's Ryan Seager have helped his team